John Beckett (politician)

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John Warburton Beckett

Member of Parliament
In office
1924–1929
Preceded by John Purcell Dickie
Succeeded by James Benjamin Melville
Constituency Gateshead

Member of Parliament
In office
1929–1931
Preceded by Hugh Dalton
Succeeded by Viscount Borodale
Constituency Peckham

Born 11 October 1894
Died 28 December 1964 (aged 70)
Political party Independent Labour Party, British Union of Fascists, National Socialist League, British Peoples Party
Children Francis Beckett
Occupation soldier, politician

John Warburton Beckett (11 October 1894 – 28 December 1964) was a leading figure in British politics between the world wars, both in the Labour Party and Fascist movements.

After serving in the army during the First World War Beckett set up the National Union of Ex-Servicemen in 1918 to look after the needs of the war veterans (although it was eventually absorbed into the later Royal British Legion having failed to gain Labour Party recognition). At this time he also joined the Independent Labour Party, sitting on Hackney council from 1919-1922. He was elected as Labour MP for Gateshead in 1924, moving to Peckham in 1929, after which he served as an ILP whip. In these early years Beckett was considered a close ally of Clement Attlee, alongside whom he had worked as a Labour Party agent before his election to Parliament. He achieved notoriety in 1930 when he lifted the Ceremonial mace during a Commons debate over the suspension of Fenner Brockway and it had to be wrestled away from him at the door. Beckett opposed Ramsay MacDonald's formation of the UK National Government and returned to the ILP fold in 1931, failing to hold his seat, with the vote split between three 'Labour' candidates. Retiring from active politics he visited Italy where he was impressed by the corporate state that had been set up.

Beckett joined the British Union of Fascists in 1934 and before long had risen through the party to become Director of Publications (serving as an editor of both BUF publications, Action and Blackshirt, for a time). He gained some notoriety for his activism, notably when he was arrested outside Buckingham Palace during the Edward VIII abdication crisis and also for being the only BUF activist to win a court case against their opponents, securing £1000 in damages in a slander suit against an anti-fascist organisation (although it disbanded before payment was collected). After initial successes the BUF began to flounder and in 1937 Oswald Mosley sacked Beckett from his salaried position. He soon returned to politics by forming the National Socialist League along with William Joyce, although his membership did not last long as he left the League in 1938, disillusioned by Hitler. Beckett spent most of the Second World War in internment but came back afterwards to lead the British Peoples Party. This also proved to be a failure and Beckett drifted away from politics, living in retirement until his death in December 1964 at the age of 70.

A biography, 'The Rebel who Lost his Cause', written by his son, the writer and journalist Francis Beckett, was published by Allison and Busby in 1999.

References

  • Francis Beckett The Rebel Who Lost His Cause — The Tragedy of John Beckett MP, London: Allison and Busby, 1999
  • Robert Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, London, 1969
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